The Maretian

by Kris Overstreet

Chapter 26: Sol 39

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My back aches and my head hurts. This is worse than the Big Tow.

Remember my bright idea? It turns out the ponies were right there with me. And it works, too, but it took a lot of work to do it. It literally took minutes to find two pieces of the pony ship’s dismembered outer hull large enough to be repurposed as sleds, and minutes more to shape them using careful application of highly advanced Earth technology (beat it with a hammer). The parachute rope used for the tow was repurposed to make towing harnesses for Cherry Berry and Spitfire to haul the sleds with, and that took about five minutes tops.

And then we all spent seven hours out at Site Epsilon. Starlight and Dragonfly used magic to shift perchlorates onto the sled. Fireball and I shoveled using smaller pieces of hull plating with the edges rounded off to prevent our gloves getting sliced up. Cherry and Spitfire hauled sleds out, dumped them downslope away from the rover, and came back in, not quite in perfect sync but close enough.

The pony ship outer hull is chemically indistinguishable from steel- there must be some kind of magic process they use to make it more durable. It’s had some form of rust-proofing or something, so it’s safe to dump a bunch of oxidizer onto. Which, oh my God, we did. Back and forth, shovel it on, dump it off, as fast as possible. We took turns in the rover eating cold food packs- full rations today with this level of work. Even Dragonfly had little nibbles from everyone else. I still need to get the story from Starlight about the bug’s dietary habits.

The hard work paid off, though. I figure we got just past halfway done today, even with all the non-perchlorate soil we had to scoop up along with the perchlorates. I think we made close to ninety trips in and out, and even though Spitfire could only haul half the load Cherry did, it was enough to drop the mound about level with the top of Fireball’s helmet.

By tomorrow we should be done. Of course, after this there will be a large no-go area at the bottom of the hill, until the Martian wind blows it away. Unfortunately, the Hab is downwind of the site, but one crisis at a time.

I am a bit concerned about the rest of our pile of boom. Originally the stuff was absolutely dry, but this morning it was a bit clumpy, and by the time our EVA time ran out there was some sort of slime forming on the surface. My best guess is, what very little water vapor is in the air in the cave is getting sucked up by the perchlorate. That’s what it does, of course, besides make thing burn really hot and fast- it dries the environment.

But for all my worries, the gunk has been very well behaved. We haven’t seen so much as a spark out of it. I guess- I hope- the Martian environment is keeping it too cold to react to anything. By the end of the day I was more worried about the patch on my suit than the perchlorate. You see, I’m using my flight suit- the one that got harpooned on Sol 6 and which I patched after I pulled the antenna out of my pelvis. I figure this is like my second-best clothes, the kind I’d use working on a car. If something happens to damage the suit, assuming I survive somehow, it won’t be my good space suit that got fucked up.

Time to sign off for now. It’s been a long day, and we’ve all earned an evening of relaxation with the Future Washed-Up Child Actors Club followed by a few episodes of Car Chases Without Context. At least tonight I can be guaranteed that Starlight won’t ask me to explain why the police officers are allowed to keep their jobs if they’re (a) crooked and (b) too dumb to realize it’s possible to arrest people when they’re not in a car.



(note: towards the end of an episode of Dukes of Hazzard, some late 1970s/early 1980s country singer is performing, because apparently celebrities drive on two-lane roads in rural Georgia between gigs in the middle of nowhere just so they can be written citations by corrupt deputies)

DRAGONFLY: Good music! Why they make?

WATNEY (torn between Watsonian and Doyleist interpretations and limited by a vocabulary which probably doesn’t go beyond a hundred words): Er… bad cops stop. Say you break law, play or else.

DRAGONFLY: Oooh. What if Partridges stop? They play too?

WATNEY: Um… Partridges in California. Dukes in Georgia. Different places, far apart.

DRAGONFLY: Look same.

WATNEY (head beginning to really hurt, figuring out how to explain): You know it’s not real, right? Make up. Make in same place.

DRAGONFLY: Ooooh. So can do! Rosco make Partridges play!

WATNEY (surrendering): Fine. Whatever. Write your fanfic. I’m sure it’ll get a million hits.

And the hell of it is, I’m writing this at three in the morning because my subconscious decided to write the fic for the bug and show it in my dreams. Apparently some part of me ships Shirley Jones and Denver Pyle. Why? If it was David Cassidy and Catharine Bach it’d make some sense.

God, I’m cracking up. If this keeps up I’ll be writing my own fics in which the eldest Partridge son drives the bus off a cliff and dies as karmic retribution for stealing my Daisy Duke waifu.

That settles it. Tomorrow after we’re done with the perchlorate removal, I break open a new series. Something that doesn’t tie my brain in knots. Six Million Dollar Man, maybe?

Author's Notes:

I am all but certain that perchlorates do not go slimy when they absorb water. Normally.

But they're doing it in the cave on Sol 39.

And if Queen Chrysalis sees what the naked apes have for television in comparison to what ponies have, she wouldn't be surprised in the least. Brain rot isn't just universal, it's multiversal.

By the way, not damaging your suit gloves is damn important. Spacesuit gloves are individually measured to fit the astronaut's hands precisely. Mark can potentially use any space suit he can fit into, but he can't really use the other crew members' gloves.

Although made several years apart, both the Partridge Family and Dukes of Hazzard used portions of the Warner Ranch for filming. (It's a little sad that I decided Lewis didn't bring MASH, just so Watney's brain could be bent by the General Lee roaring through the Korean War...)
Yesterday I managed to write about 1300 words while killing time sitting in a car waiting for a shirt delivery. Whatever writing I do tonight will be after I post this but before I turn out the lights. I'm in Birmingham now, and if you're in central-to-northern Alabama this weekend you can find me in the dealer's room at Kami-Con (the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center downtown) hoping to sell enough to pay for what looks like yet more transmission follies, oh fun.

I trust I don't need to wave the lampshade today.

Next Chapter: Sols 40-41 Estimated time remaining: 27 Hours, 41 Minutes
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